29 November 2012

The Most Exciting News


Yup, you read that right - our prayers were answered! It is with the Michigan Court of Appeals in our home state of Michigan (specifically Lansing). It is almost exactly what Matt was doing when he clerked for three judges over the course of his law school career. From my super-technical understanding, he'll be part of a pool of research lawyers handling incoming appeals. The job is really for one year and the Court has the option to renew him for a total of three years. It has been said that judges often pick their clerks out of this pool and Matt would love to clerk his way up to the Michigan Supreme Court. Additionally, the three previous judges, several of Matt's professors, and his current employer have all spoken very highly of Matt's skills and talents, not to mention Matt's mad networking skills, so we really believe this job has the ability to last as long as we want it to.

As if things could get any more wonderful, the job perfectly lines up with his current position. He'll finish in Chicago in July 2013 and the Court would like him to begin in August 2013. A-maz-ing.

It actually wasn't as easy as it sounds though. Matt interviewed in person in mid-October and was told to expect to hear back by the beginning of November. He thought the interview went well, but didn't think he had the job in the bag, so to speak. The weeks ticked by and it was almost mid-November before we started giving up hope. Sure enough, a few days before Thanksgiving, the rejection letter (dun-dun-dun) arrived in the mail. It wasn't a typical form letter, though, as it specifically said that should Matt still be interested in working for the Court when his fellowship ended, they would like him to follow back up. They also mentioned in the letter that Matt met all of the qualifications necessary for the job (was that part of the form letter?), so we were confused why he didn't get the position. We were angry and disappointed, but after a few days of frustration, we decided that it must not be what God wanted for us. A week after we let it go, Matt got a phone call with an offer.

We've officially accepted and the paperwork is officially on the way. We're satisfied with the salary and it comes with MEDICAL BENEFITS! That's almost my favorite part. My top favorite part is the dependability of knowing where we will be living and working in 8-9 months. It is very stressful to know you have to move within a year but have no idea where you'll be. But not anymore! No more job hunting on the weekends - just sheer enjoyment of a stable life!

We're flirting with the idea of buying a starter house in Lansing. From what we've seen online, housing is extremely inexpensive in that area and we like the idea of a very short commute. We have tons of work in front of us if we choose that route, so we're still just in the fun, brainstorming stages. Matt would like to stay with the court for 5-8 years and we'd really love to pay a mortgage instead of rent. If things stay stable in Michigan, it is feasible that by the time Matt is ready to move on from the Court, we would have no law school debt and own our own small home. It's far in the future, but it's fun to imagine.

27 November 2012

Photo Dump

We are home sweet home in Chicago, Illinois, after cutting our trip a few days short. When I got home late from a girls' night on Saturday to find Abigail congested and having difficulty breathing, I knew we were in for it. We woke up on Sunday to find things not looking any better, so we decided to call off the rest of our trip. With some last-minute phone calls, Matt was sworn in before a judge on Monday morning, we had quick pizza lunch with a few people who turned out to see the event, then we headed back home. I'll have more on the swearing-in ceremony later, once I get some pics - and permission to post them - from my brother-in-law, a pro who brought his fancy camera to the event.

Coming home was a good call though, as Abigail slept through the night for the first time since getting home last night. We're still doing the whole runny-nose-faucet thing combined with the short-tempered-clingy thing. But at least we all have more than 4 hours sleep.

In between periods of grouchy-baby-needs-constant-attention, I cleared off the photos on my cell, Matt's cell, and my camera, some stretching back to the summer. So I'll do one of those trendy photo dump things for a post today. Enjoy!

13 months old. omg. What on earth is up with that hair?

Us hiking in a park just north of Chicago in late August. I made that little sling since Moby Wraps (ie, stretchy fabric slings) don't work as back carriers. Abigail fell asleep shortly after we started are then proceed to slide off to the side and caused some back pain.

On the way back from apartment hunting in Chicago the first time, our train drove right through a balloon festival. I can't remember the town now, but I think it was near Kalamazoo.

Left: I need to go back to the Hershey's store and buy that cookbook. Right: Some jewels at the jewel and gem room in the Field Museum.

Some gorgeous color during a walk we took on my birthday.

The view at my in-law's cabin in upstate Michigan. We visited in mid-October.

A photo Matt took during the first snowfall of the season.

 The city coming into town last night.

The traffic coming into town last night.

Christmas decorations at the Sears Willis Tower.

A view of the city from the park just 1/2 mile from our house. The building with the yellow lights on top is the John Hancock building.

Nobody here but a couple of Michigan State fans. 15-months-old.

14 months. I really like this picture - I took it with my cell phone and sometimes make it the background photo.

24 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The winter sun has been playing with the architecture in my neighborhood, the angle of the sun amongst the tall buildings changing every few weeks. A few days before it left, the sun sliced through the alleyway between my building and my neighbors, stretching across the lawn, landing on the hood of my car.

Anyway, we're back in Michigan now, celebrating Thanksgiving in a town so small, it only has one stoplight. For most directions from my parents' backyard, there are no visible neighbors.

It snowed again, this time it wasn't a surprise we discovered when we woke up, but one that we watched fall from the sky - so heavy for just a few minutes.

Abigail does not like winter coats, hats, hoods, or snow. She's a Florida girl, to be sure. Every time we have nice weather, you can almost see her give a sigh of relief.

Anyway, we have lots of good food, family and friend reunions, parties, and relaxing. Girl's night, date night, coffee dates at small town coffee shops during small business Saturday. A nice slowdown, vacation, from the big city. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

21 November 2012

Sling Referral

For any of you who are interested in the sling that never fails to make my day, it is currently on sale at more than 60% off plus free shipping on Zulily through the end of the day Thursday. This is solely a PSA, I'm not being paid by anyone to make this announcement. However, Zulily does have a "refer a friend and get $20 off your next purchase" deal in which everyone can partake, so if you are interested in either the pink or green sling (or any of the other slings, diaper clutches, or shopping cart covers), click the button below and I'll get the referral credit when your order ships.

And may I remind you, I LOVE this sling. Quality reflective of the price, easy to get on and off/kid in and out, very minimal neck and back stress with all day use.

All this gushing is making me want to score the pink one too! Is it okay if/when we have more kids, to put a boy in a pink sling?


Lately I feel like I've been having more bad days than good ones. Days where I don't want to get out of bed and can't wait until Matt gets home from work. Days were we have meltdowns before lunch time.

I think things have been hard because we spend a lot more time in the needier baby stages than do typically developing kids. For example, Abigail could sit on her own when she was 6 months old. That doesn't mean she could get into a sitting position, it just means that if you put her into a sitting position, she'd stay there. For 4.5 months, she couldn't even roll herself over. Then for 6 months, she couldn't sit up. Then for another 2 months, if she fell over, she was stuck. Her physical therapist warned me that exersaucers, jumpers, walkers, and Bumbos were bad for her development, so I was either stuck with a swing or holding Abigail for almost 9 months. It was very draining. Abigail is now 18 months, officially 1.5 years, and she can crawl around, pull up to a stand, and toddle along furniture just fine. But she doesn't walk. She doesn't walk when she is holding someone's hands. She, the baby who is so motivated to move, doesn't even seem interested in walking. When we were at the aquarium, I saw scores in the under-two crowd who walked a long with their parents, getting a ride only when they were tired. If the parents brought the stroller, their children were old enough to be pulled out of the stroller and walk by themselves for a few minutes while the mom carted the luggage up the stairs. So here I am, with a 1.5 year old who usually needs to be carried and doesn't follow one-word directions (for example: stop, no, yucky). Sometimes I feel like she'll never walk or be potty-trained or listen to me when I tell her to stop pulling the cat's tail. Whenever I seek solace among friends with typically-developing kids, I usually here one of the following:
"All kids develop differently. My son didn't walk til really late either."
"She will walk eventually. It's not like you're going to have to carry her into kindergarten."

What frustrates me is that, yes, all kids do develop differently, and yes, she'll most certainly be walking by the time she's 5, but it will only happen because I have to work my ass off to make it happen. If I stop working with her, she won't walk into kindergarten. She won't just figure these things out by herself. Kids today with Ds learn to walk, talk, function productively in society because they get resources that work with them to achieve these milestones. Remove the work and you end up with Ds as it was in the 1950s. That work is hard. It is draining. It sucks everything out of me and leaves me feeling like a poor, inadequate excuse for a parent.

I often say that being the parent of a special needs child means that our lows are lower and our highs are higher. When Abigail could transition from laying down to sitting up on her own or when she started pulling from a sitting to a standing position, I felt a lot of immense pride. It's like when you're sitting in the audience watching your child play the piano or dance a ballet recital. Your eyes fill with tears and you are so proud because you know how hard your child worked to get to that stage. You spent all that time shuffling back and forth to dance class and supported the hours of practice on the kitchen tile. You are watching all the blood and sweat and tears pay off in that moment of heart-bursting joy. That is my life. That is my life when Abigail toddles along furniture.

But right now, I'm in the trenches of the work. Of the comforting the kid when they want to quit because they had to miss a play date for practice or they screwed up a sequence. Of rescheduling a date night or watching a tv show a few days later online because you had to put aside your life for your kid's ambitions. I'm in the blood and sweat and tears part. But yesterday, as I was feeling particularly weighed down, Abigail followed a brief command. She brought me her shoes when requested. One at a time, tucked under her arm while she scooted across the bedroom on one knee and one foot. She brought me first one, and then the other. It was blissful. I honestly almost cried. A glimmer of sustaining hope in a downpour of despair.

I need relief. I think Matt and I need monthly date nights. Some time where we can just be happily married, adults, and ourselves. The last time we went out on a date was when The Avengers hit the small town theaters, around July. We will be in Michigan visiting family over Thanksgiving, and I've already arranged with family for a baby sitter so that Matt and I can go out. Once we get back, I plan to find a way to make dating a regular thing. The only people in Chicago I know well enough to trust are Abigail's therapists, so we'll start there.

It feels good to talk about it. To get it off my chest. To shout out into the void that is the Internet and to know that even if no one hears it, it's not in my corner anymore. I'm free.

Well, it's back to laundry and packing and rocking non-sleeping babies down for a nap.

PS, I hit my pre-pregnancy weight. Just in time for Thanksgiving ; )

19 November 2012

Fishy Adventures

A few hours ago, I saw a headline article on Yahoo! News: "Bed Bugs Make a Beeline for Chicago." When I first saw it, I jokingly gasped at my husband, "Oh no, bed bugs!" But I was really thinking, This is the 3rd biggest city in the nation. Of course it is going to have bed bugs. Then I read the article. The specific neighborhood I live in and several surrounding us were listed. By name. As new problem areas. It wasn't just like, "Oh, the north side of Chicago should watch out!" It was more like, "Hey, they live down the street from you." Then I was like, "Oh shit." And then they were like ... ah, but I jest in the heat of a serious moment. I have to keep joking otherwise the knowledge of what I just read and the vigilance that I now need to care about will prevent me from sleeping from now until I have tangible confirmation that I'm bed bugless. Cause it's not really like we can to go a hotel or something. Cause they're bed bugs. Oh geeze.

So after Thanksgiving, I'm going to track down some bed bug indicator traps and start testing monthly so that if all hell tries to break loose, I will nip it in its bloody (haha, get it?) ass before we end up with bug bites.

Anyway, we've been going kinda crazy over here lately, tired of walking the same sidewalks every afternoon, tired of swinging on the same swings at the same park. So Abigail and I decided to go on an adventure on this bright and sunny Monday before the stressful holiday season begins.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I wanted to bring the sling or the stroller. The stroller is wonderful because then I don't have to lug around a diaper bag filled with lunch and water bottles, but taking the 'L' (I recently read that that is the proper way to name the 'L') with a stroller and navigating downtown crowds suck. My preferred stroller too big to navigate svelte-ly, but my umbrella stroller isn't comfortable for Abigail or me for long-term use. In the end I made the right call because my destination of choice's handicap accessibility was reverse engineered into the building. (IE, it's a big pain in the ass).

Free resident day at the aquarium. I discovered that the free pass only encompasses the general admission price, which is a whopping $8, and you can't buy upgrades to the special exhibits, like the jellies you see advertised on the building. In order to see the jellies, which I really wanted to do, you have to pay $30 (if you went to their website, you see that the jellies cost an additional + $3, but residents get $3 off, so -$3 for me). It was fun, though, as a once-in-a-great-while thing. And this is part of the reason:

By the time I took this picture, I'd already been in line for about 20 minutes. All-in-all, it took at least 70 minutes to get inside. Surprisingly, it wasn't as crowded inside as the out-the-door line would have you believe. I love these beautiful, old, historic buildings. So much character.

And Abigail LOVED it. She has a thing for fish. I'm not sure if she thinks the fish tanks are computer screens, but ever since she was little, she's loved watching fish swim around. Humorously enough, when she was little and we spent lots of time in doctor's waiting rooms, we seemed to watch a lot of Find Nemo. For some reason, 90% of the time, that was the movie playing on the tv in the corner. So, yes, apparently we're fish people. My cats will be happy to know.

Abigail prefers large fish to smaller ones, she doesn't really care about turtles, but she loves sting rays, dolphins, big schools of shiny fish, and upside-down sea horses. (He was swimming upside-down and backward. It was a little twilight zone-y). Anyway, here is a dark and blurry picture of Abigail crawling along a bench right outside of the dolphin exhibit, trying to keep up with the dolphins:

I post it for all of Abigail's adoring fans who read my blog solely for baby pictures. I figure it's better than nothing.

Anyway, yesterday Abigail officially turned 18 months, which makes her officially 1.5 years old. That is all I have for you today, I apologize for the lack of editing I plan to not do on this post, which I know it needs cause I'm pretty sure I used the word "ass" three times.

Grateful? No bed bugs. Or cockroaches. (I can't find the blog post to link, but I'm referencing the apartment in Florida we moved in to after Abigail was born which was infested with cockroaches. It was disgusting).

14 November 2012

A Full Life

It came yesterday.

It was a big deal for us.

It was the first time Abigail had ever seen snow. She was less than impressed. She kept giving me this look that half said, "This stuff is COLD!" and "Mommy, why are you doing this to me?"

Lately I have a lot of projects on my plate, but I'm enjoying them all too much to give any of them up. Most are on a deadline, which means I need to start prioritizing them. We have no plans this weekend, so it looks like Abigail will get some daddy-daughter time.

Speaking of Abigail, we ran to Joann Fabrics this afternoon to pick up some materials for one of the aforementioned many projects when we had a bit of an issue. I was standing in line at the fabric cutting counter in a line of three mamas of little girls. The girl in front of us in line was the exact same age as Abigail and the girl behind us was a bit older. All three children waved at one another while we waited. The female employee cutting the fabric flirted and flirted with the little girl in front of us, complimenting the mom on how cute her daughter was. When it was our turn, the woman in front strolled away and I took her place. Silence ensued. Not once did the employee smile, wave, or compliment Abigail. She stoically cut my fabric, shoved it across the counter to me, and handed me the price printout without a word. As we walked off, I heard her greet the girl behind us, saying, "Hi!" in a baby voice and giving the mom a: "she's so cute!"

And I was left wondering why? Is it because I took too long making up my mind when it turned out there wasn't enough fabric on the bolt for my project? Is it because I couldn't find the note on the side of the bolt telling me how wide the fabric was and had to ask? Why? Is it because she has Down syndrome? Whenever we're at the grocery store and someone turns away from Abigail's wave, I just tell myself she must not be a baby person. When there is insufficient data, I'd rather imagine acceptance than rejection. But sometimes I get just enough data to make me think twice. It's never overt, no one ever just comes out and says anything about Abigail, which is good because I don't want a scene in a place of business. I know that worrying and wondering is a waste of my energy, but right now this public rejection stuff is so new, so outside of my comfort zone, that I can't get it out of my mind. I try to remind myself of the two women (customers) who told me Abigail was adorable and the other women in line who jokingly chided their girls for not sitting still long enough to sport pig tails.

"Look for the good...and you will find it," my copy of Bloom says. This right here is good:

There is a link between Down syndrome and Autism, but every time Abigail's speech therapist sees her, she comments on how expressive Abigail is. One more concern we can scratch off the list.

What am I thankful for right now? My wild and precious life.

12 November 2012

Batten Down the Hatches

By Saturday afternoon, Abigail was back to her old self again, so over the weekend, Matt and I made a point to spend as much time outside as possible. The daytime temps were in the 60s, an unexpected last hurrah before winter, I suspect. Abigail went for a total of three walks on Sunday and I went for a long, slow run around the neighborhood Sunday morning. When we break out the stroller, Abigail flocks to it, so excited that she just sits next to it until we're ready to go.

We dressed lightly - just sweatshirts or vests over long-sleeved t-shirts. We unzipped them halfway through the walk, holding hands, and laughing in the warm breeze.

Matt and I marveled at the thought that if we were in Florida, we'd still be wearing shorts. We didn't usually break out the jeans until December-ish. I've also been really surprised at how weird it feels to crunch leaves again. It didn't seem like something that would be so noticeable, but the sound of the leaves beneath my shoes, shuffling my feet to kick them in the air, the feel of them, softening the concrete, the smell, distinctly leaf.

Today the temps were in the 30s. The last time I felt something that cold was in December 2009 when Matt and I spent Christmas in Michigan after moving to Florida four months prior. We took the car to the grocery store because it was just too cold to walk. Freezing. I don't know how people walk around in this. I don't know how we're going to survive this winter. We're going to need more blankets.

I say that because I'm a crocheter and my favorite thing to crochet are afghans. Anyway. Do you remember my lovely, charming neighbors? They don't have jobs (which is to say: they are home all. the. time.), they like to stink up the hallway with marijuana, and they get into screaming matches with one another right below Abigail's room. It dawned on me the other day that even if I do succeed in getting them kicked out of the apartment complex, it could take months. In the meantime, I'd really like to figure out how to keep the nasty language they scream at one another out of my daughter's hearing. I have an iPod shuffle, so I created a baby playlist and found a cute little speaker online. They had cheaper speakers, but I decided to pay a little bit more hoping for something with higher sound quality and more durable (read: safe if Abigail finds him) construction:

He is super cute - his eyes are the speakers! Anyway, we tried him out over the weekend and he works wonderfully! The neighbors haven't gotten into it since he arrived, but from now on, we'll be prepared.

Aside from continuing the frugality momentum (trying a new cracker recipe tonight and some dishwasher detergent on Wednesday), the other thing I've been working on is my living room. I have a very large living room (12 ft wide and 20 ft long) and not much furniture. I have a couch and a coffeetable. That's it. It only takes up half the room. We're light on furniture because we move a lot and furniture is heavy and also because when you're husband spends three years sitting at a desk, you don't really need more than one sofa. That being said, if someone approached us and said, "Hey, I'm getting rid of my couch/arm chair/chaise lounge - do you want it?" we wouldn't have turned them down. Anyway, our desk and bookshelves fit really nicely in the dining room with the dining table, so I just have all this space in my living room to do with whatever I want.

I have thrown around the idea of making a craft corner. I really like crafting - I started 18 years ago (at 8-years-old) with needlepoint and latch hook. I've been doing it so long that there isn't anything I haven't dabbled in from sewing (I made my own prom dress, dontcha know), quilting, cross-stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, stamping, scrapbooking, drawing, painting, and probably other things I'm forgetting. I've never had a proper crafting space. Right now, as it has been since I got married, I just have an over-flowing wire shelf and a giant stack of baskets in the closet. When I want to craft something, I take over the kitchen table for an afternoon. When I want to sew something, I have to get the step ladder, take my sewing machine down, take it out of the box, set it up, make my project, pack the sewing machine back up, and put it back in the closet. As you can imagine, I don't sew much.

Two things holding me back: 1. If I were to create a craft space, we'd have to buy a table. Now that Matt is working, we could actually afford to purchase something, but the problem lies in getting it home. We have a very tiny car and not many people on Craigslist deliver. 2. Having a crafting space in the living room would be weird when we had people over. Which we don't do very often. But it'd be weird when we did.

Anyway, I'm not really sure what to do with this gigantic space, but I'd like to figure out something. It's large and echo-y and not very inviting. Ideas?

Well, it's back to the grind for me - I've got a baby food to make. Have a great week everyone! Right now I'm grateful for a delicious dinner and a happy husband. (It's possible one may have caused the other).

09 November 2012


As Wednesday wore on, my sick, clingy baby grew worse and worse. By 2:30pm, she was curled up in my arms, a pillow tucked around my waist in a make-shift boppy pillow from the days of infanthood. I pulled out all of Abigail's plush baby blankets and made us a cloud-soft resting place where we watched Blues Clues until she fell asleep and I read my book in silence. She begrudgingly woke up when Matt got home from work, and refused to fall back asleep. She woke up every few hours all. night. long. It was just like Monday. At some point, I just took her to bed with us so that I wouldn't have to stumble down the hallway every hour. It was somewhere between 11pm and 1am that I decided we were going to find a pediatrician first thing in the morning. A few of the nurses hassled me about our lack of insurance, explaining impatiently to me that no kid goes uninsured in Illinois. If only things worked in real life like they do in the political speeches. By the time I left the doctor's office on Thursday, I'd had four days of fussiness, crying, and lack of sleep. My husband and I were short on everything but snarky remarks. It's kind of a miracle, and a testament to how much work we put into our marriage, that we never once got into a fight the entire week.

Apparently Abigail has some we-see-this-all-the-time-nothing-you-can-do-fluids-and-rest virus. Since it's been going on since Monday, the doctor thinks we're probably at the tail end of things.

Famous last words.

New words? Inconsolable crying. Off and on. For 6 hours. This mama was ready to jump off a freaking cliff. My husband was excellent at home: heating up leftovers and delivering them to me in bed, where I was trying to keep Abigail happy; picking up Chinese on his way home from work when leftovers ran out; going in to work late so he could keep her occupied while I showered; encouraging me to go to bed at 9pm (which was good since I was up two hours later with a sobbing baby). But last night was so unbearable that I called the after hours emergency physician. She recommended that we go to the ER. I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and so tired of the crying that I was ready to go. This is where the whole team-work thing comes in to play. My husband was livid. First of all, he ranted, I had just gone to the doctor about 12 hours ago. Why wasn't this possibility addressed? Secondly, we don't have insurance and ERs are expensive. The logical discussions got me thinking. My mommy instinct wasn't going off. I wasn't convinced my child was dehydrated. She didn't need emergency medical intervention. She was tired and pissed. And pissed that she was tired and not sleeping. And probably hungry because she hadn't eaten much of anything for three days. Matt trusted my mommy instinct.

So we worked together to get her calm, Matt rocked her to sleep. And today? Today when he looked at me and asked, "Do you want me to stay home today?" And I said, "Yes." He didn't bat an eye. He sent off an email to his boss letting him know he'd be working from home. It was easy to keep the atmosphere light - I was grateful for him being home and he was appreciative of how hard it is to be a stay-at-home-mom. Our mutual respect for one another's sacrifices made the day so. much. easier. We took turns rocking her down for a nap, he took her so that I could exercise and shower, I took her so he could get some work done. It was good. And Abigail is doing much better. She ate normally today, had distinct play and tired episodes, and even smiled a few times. The reduced stress on me made it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan. It was good - we were good. I can't imagine doing this alone. I am so thankful for him and that he works hard enough that we can afford to go to the doctor even without insurance.

07 November 2012

A Soul-Building Day

And it's not even 10am.

I'd like to start my post off this way because it's a quick and dirty way to let you know something is up. A little 5-word disclaimer that before 10am, I have enough stuff to blog about. But I won't complain. Because there isn't anything to complain about. This morning has been good. Quiet. Stirring. It is quiet now while Abigail naps and I'm looking through pictures and feeling the creative tingle in my blood that makes me feel like home.

Abigail is sick. I don't know with what since neither Matt nor I have anything, but girl could find a germ in a bottle of antiseptic, so I can't really say I'm surprised that she's sick when no one else is. She's tired. She hasn't been sleeping well at night. And she hasn't been eating well. By 7:00 this morning, I threw away my to-do list and donned the sling.

This morning when she rejected breakfast again, I starting growing concerned that she wouldn't be able to fight off a cold without sustenance, so I dug through the back of the cupboard until I found an old package of formula. Abigail has been off bottles and formula for about four months now (since she was 13 months old), but since formula is complete nutrition and 1/2 a banana isn't, I mixed some up and poured it into a straw cup. I handed it to Abigail along with a fruit and grain bar, and she started chugging the long-lost formula down so quickly you'd think it'd disappear if she dared let go.

After "breakfast," Abigail resumed her clingy-ness, so I resumed the sling. Abigail has low muscle tone and carrying her is kind of like carrying a sleeping child. She doesn't use her own abs to hold herself up, so you have to carry her full body weight. The only difference is that she'll hold up her own head. Except when she's sick. Then I have to carry that too. I don't really mind though, her low muscle tone is easy to enjoy. She is so easy to snuggle.

The only thing about an older baby toddler in a sling is that she doesn't want me to sit. She wants me to move. It is wwwaaayyy too cold outside to take a sick baby, so I grabbed my camera and started taking artsy photos of my apartment.

Abigail was very content to watch me take pictures from inside the comfort of her muscle-free sling, so I kept shooting. I took the time to adjust blinds and lamps and positions until I got the look I wanted. I took risks and tried new things using mirrors.

I took pictures of pictures from the days of yore when Matt and I were dating and I was skinny.

This apartment is beautiful - its character is beautiful. Sometimes I really, really enjoy living here. It is so different from anywhere I've ever lived. I played with new ways to capture and enhance it.

As the morning wore on, Abigail grew more and more refreshed until she started venturing out.

When I sat down at my computer to upload the photos, I found that I had taken 103 today. I narrowed it down to 69 by eliminating unintentionally blurry shots and duplicate photos. I played around in Photoshop with some and with others I noted beautiful lighting and touchable textures.

It is so very easy to sneak up on a deaf cat. A very photogenic deaf cat.

My other cat? She's beautiful too. But in a different, darker than the darkest hour of the darkest night, kind of way.

Finally Abigail was ready to get out of the sling. I set her down in a "big girl chair" because she's developing a thing for big girl chairs.

I think my husband will really like that last photo. I think he'll like the ones below too because we're paper junkies. We're addicted to notebooks. I kid you not. We were both the type of kid who liked to play school/office. We carried around blank notebooks and dreamed about the things we would fill them with. We liked the smell of newly sharpened pencils and were picky about the type of pen we used.

When we got married, it was good news for paper producers. We're good at encouraging one another to buy more notebooks. Our current obsession (which has lasted for 5 years now) is for Moleskines. No one is paying me to say this. No one is offering me free stuff to post these pictures. It's just a damn good product. Matt stumbled across a Moleskine planner when I graduated college and encouraged me to buy it at the turn of the new year. It was a good decision. I love my planner, and every year, I buy the exact same one. A black, soft cover, weekly with one side as a dedicated notes page. But with all of Abigail's therapies, our appointments, our moving around the country, I found that I needed more space. So for this new year, I deterred from the path.

I bought a new planner. A daily. In bright yellow. And I love it. I can't wait until the new year so I can start using it. It feels like a journal. It has tons of space.

The old Jacqueline never would have bought a different planner. And if she did, she never would have bought it in bright yellow. But this Jacqueline, this 21st-chromosome-rocked-my-world-we-made-it-through-open-heart-surgery-I-recovered-from-post-partum-depression-through-sheer-work-and-will-power-I-lived-1300-miles-from-home-I-made-it-I'm-strong Jacqueline did. And it wasn't even hard.

I know that last paragraph seems really silly and that seeing growth in the purchase of a yellow planner is really, really different. Can I explain by sharing something really vulnerable? When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was a writer. When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher called me stupid and told me I could never be a writer. My parents, in a loving attempt to help, home schooled me throughout middle school, but it was a very isolating experience and compounded my problems. I swirled down a depressed, self-destructive torrent. I didn't know what I wanted to do or to be and I thought that meant I was supposed to die before I was old enough to do or be anything. I coped by becoming an obsessive, over-achieving perfectionist who never let anyone in. It wasn't until I moved away to college that I realized that I had power over my own life and I could become someone I liked. First college, then marriage, then Florida, then a baby, then Chicago. I grew one painful step at a time, but each painful step made me stronger and happier. And now I have a joyful, bright, different yellow planner.

I hope that helps. Anyway,

We snuggled in the rocking chair and read books until she was ready for a nap. I rocked her down, snuck out here to the computer, and have enjoyed 1.5 hours of quiet work and reflection. When I sat down to write this post, I never imagined it would contain what it does - me opening the door a little bit into my past. But today is a good day because I threw away my to-dos and spent time looking at the world around me. A soul-building day of rest and breath-catching eyes.